Merlo Davidson Settlement Agreement (RCMP)
The terms of the Merlo Davidson Class Action settlement agreement provided for the Independent Assessor to draft a report of observations and recommendations in the claims process. The final report along with the RCMP response was publicly released on November 19, 2020.
- The Government of Canada recognizes the devastating impacts of workplace violence, harassment and discrimination and is committed to eliminating it in all its forms.
- A year ago, former Justice Michel Bastarache released his final report on the Merlo Davidson settlement agreement.
- The RCMP has made progress in implementing many of the recommendations in the final report, as part of a holistic, long-term approach to a modern and healthy RCMP.
- The new Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution (ICHR) began operating in June 2021 and is on track to be fully staffed by July 2022.
- The ICHR handles the intake of complaints, case analysis, informal resolution referrals, and ensures that proposed measures to restore the workplace or to act on work place harassment and violence findings are put in place.
- It currently has a roster of 29 external investigators who are working on complaints as they come in, and continues to add.
- It also provides support to employees who have experienced criminal offenses related to workplace harassment and violence.
- An external review of the RCMP’s conduct measures and their application is also underway and the first phase focused on harassment and sexual misconduct will be completed by January 2022, to ensure they are fair, transparent and effective .
- The recruitment process is being improved, including by piloting implicit bias testing, and modernizing the screening entrance exam, using Gender-based Analysis Plus.
Merlo Davidson Class Action
The Merlo Davidson class action settlement concerns gender and sexual orientation-based harassment and discrimination of female RCMP members and public service employees in the workplace from 1974 to 2017. In 2017, the Federal Court approved a settlement that established a confidential and independent Claims Process and compensation scheme overseen by former Supreme Court of Canada Justice, the Hon. Michel Bastarache, C.C.,Q.C. as Independent Assessor.
A total of 3,086 claims were filed between August 2017 and May 2018. The Assessor determined that 2,304 claimants were entitled to compensation under the settlement agreement, for a total of $125.4 million in compensation payments.
The Final Report and Findings
The terms of the Settlement Agreement provide for the Independent Assessor to “draft a report that will provide an overview of [his] observations and recommendations stemming from his work in assessing claims.” The final report, Broken Dreams Broken Lives: The Devastating Effects of Sexual Harassment on Women in the RCMP, was publicly released on November 19, 2020.
The final report concludes that the RCMP culture is “toxic” and “tolerates misogyny and homophobia at all ranks and in all provinces and territories.” While the claims covered a 40-year period, the Assessor observes that the conduct reported persisted over time and his report speaks to the culture that currently exists. The report acknowledges the positive changes that have been made in response to past reports on workplace harassment and discrimination; however, it finds that despite these efforts, the RCMP has failed to resolve this pervasive problem.
Additionally, the report sets out the treatment that claimants described to the three Assessors, including use of offensive language; discrimination in access to promotions and training; frequent incidents of sexual misconduct; and fear of reprisals if complaints were filed. LGBTQ2S women or women of Indigenous or racialized heritage were found to often be treated even more poorly. The report also addresses the impact on the lives of the claimants and their families, including loss of mental health, loss of family and connection, and personality changes.
The report sets out 52 recommendations grouped as follows: systemic barriers; recruitment, training, recruit field training, postings, ongoing training, human resources and staffing, maternity and parental leave and employment flexibility, grievances and discipline, mental health, promotions, leadership, specialized teams, medical examination and civilian members and public service employees. Ultimately, the report indicates that “there are strong reasons to doubt that the RCMP has the capacity or the will to make the changes necessary to address the toxic aspects of its culture” and that “true change can only take hold in the RCMP if independent external pressure is brought to bear on it.”
The RCMP response to the final report was posted its external website on November 19, 2020.
Building on efforts to date under the RCMP’s Vision 150 modernization plan, the RCMP response commits to a holistic approach to culture change and an RCMP free of violence, harassment and discrimination.
The RCMP response acknowledges the recommendations, which cross four key areas, many of which are already underway as part of a long-term approach to a healthy and inclusive workplace:
- Harassment prevention and resolution: e.g., a new Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution, a civilian-staffed harassment prevention and resolution regime, outside the chain of command and reporting to the Chief Administrative Officer. This will ensure employees have access to a trusted, consistent process that is accessible, timely and accountable.
- The launch of ICHR was in June 2021, and today there are 29 external investigators.
- The ICHR is on track to be fully staffed and fully operational by July 2022.
- In addition to addressing individual cases, analysis of external investigation findings will provide important information to help the RCMP prevent workplace harassment and violence to improve the work place.
- The ICHR is part of the panel involved in conduct review discussions.
- Addressing systemic barriers: e.g., identifying, preventing and removing barriers from our policies, programs and operations through Gender-based Analysis+ and a new RCMP Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.
- Recruitment and onboarding: e.g., recruitment modernization plan, examining large-scale changes to Depot and continuing to review the Cadet Training Program.
- Leadership development and training: e.g., integration of Character Leadership in recruitment, training and promotion processes.
Prepared by:, Executive Director for the Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution Celine Larabie, 613-240-8701
Approved by: Chief Administration Officer Frances McRae, 613-825-7675
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